A receiver employing a field-widened Mach–Zehnder interferometer (MZI) is investigated for extending the wind measurement range of a narrow-band Fe Doppler lidar operating at 372 nm from its existing measurement range in the mesosphere and lower thermosphere (MLT) down to near the ground. This design uses the multiple transmitted frequencies available from the base Fe Doppler lidar in combination with a novel MZI receiver to make a measurement of the Doppler shift that rejects the influence of atmospheric parameters such as the aerosol backscatter ratio, temperature, and pressure of the lidar volume and receiver parameters such as the geometric overlap, the chopper function, and any other factor affecting the proportion of the signal in both channels of the MZI equally. A ratio is constructed from the three frequencies and two channels of the interferometer that exhibits a measurement performance of 1.75 times the Cramer–Rao lower bound, which is comparable to the dual MZI (DMZ) while preserving the insensitivity to backscatter spectrum of the quad MZI (QMZ). In addition, we show how the use of multiple transmitted frequencies can yield a wind measurement wherein the accuracy is insensitive to the optical imperfection and misalignment of the MZI or any other factor that affects the contrast, though the precision is still impacted by the fringe contrast. Simply adding a second surface mirror of a particular thickness to the basic tilted MZI can allow the field of the MZI to be widened sufficiently for most resonance Doppler lidar receivers in operation today. Provided that the detection sensitivity in each channel is known, the original resonance fluorescence and Rayleigh scattering signals can be recovered by simply scaling and adding the contributions from both channels. Consequently, the wind and temperature from the MLT region and the temperature from the Rayleigh region can be derived alongside the Rayleigh Doppler wind measurement without compromising the measurement precision. Using actual data obtained recently from a Major Research Instrumentation Fe Doppler lidar, we show the expected measurement performance and some potential scientific avenues for this embodiment of a “whole-atmosphere” lidar system.
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